Reimagining Public Safety working group looks to Minnesota for inspiration on new department


Daily file photo by Nick Francis

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th). At Tuesday night’s Rethinking the Organizational Structure Working Group meeting, Burns said the city could learn from a Minneapolis suburb’s efforts to reimagine public safety.

Avani Kalra, Assistant City Editor

Evanston’s Rethinking the Organizational Structure Working Group met Tuesday night to identify potential partners to enhance public safety in Evanston. 

The subgroup of the Reimagining Public Safety Committee, which is working to review the city’s relationship with the Evanston Police Department and its efforts on public safety, most notably intends to hear from Brooklyn Center, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis. Brooklyn Center is creating a new Community Response Department led by medical and mental health professionals, social workers and other qualified staff. The department aims to answer appropriate calls that would have been addressed by the police department. 

“We want to look further into this model in an effort to potentially adopt it here,” Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said. 

Patrick Keenan-Devlin, group member and executive director of the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, guided a group discussion about establishing a “sister-city” relationship with Brooklyn Center as Evanston considers following its lead. Sister cities are two towns or cities that share similarities and work together on planned activities or initiatives. 

“Cities very often adopt sister cities,” Keenan-Devlin said. “It’s usually for goofy things, but I’ve also seen it in more substantive ways, like around climate change.” 

Khadine Bennett, the American Civil Liberties Union’s director of advocacy and intergovernmental affairs, suggested Oakland, Calif. as a second potential sister city. Bennett said she would also like to reach out to PolicyLink, a nonprofit organization in Oakland working to create “an equitable economy, an inclusive and compassionate society, and a strong, accountable democracy.”

Bennett said Evanston should connect with PolicyLink to learn about how community groups engage with Oakland’s public safety reimagining. She said that the nonprofit has facilitated most of Oakland’s work on public safety. 

Burns added that he would like to hear from other organizations like PolicyLink. The working group concluded the meeting with a list of organizations to reach out to, including the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, the FUSE Corps Team and the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @avanidkalra

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